Sunday, January 31, 2010

Reverse Glass Painting Techniques

The photos at top show my finished version, the lower ones show work in progress. The first step is to make a tracing of the original design (or of course, if practical, use a flat-bed scanner).

You must "flip" the pattern, as you will be working in reverse. I mark the front of my glass with the word "front", and a few general outlines of the design. This helps keep me from painting on the wrong side (don't ask me how many times I have done that).

The materials used are artist oil paints, Japan colors in oil, varnish and gold size.

The outlines are done in umber tones, and very often, there are glazes for shadow areas placed where they will create shade and tonal effects. In the photo you can see glazes in the tree; this was not appropriate, and I re-did that area after this photo was taken. Remember, you will be painting foreground items first, ending with the background (that's why it is called reverse glass painting!).

Once a layer dries, you can move on to the next. With careful observation and planning, you can often do one of these simple designs in just a few sittings. The originals were quickly painted, giving them a very free effect. This is the hardest part of replicating these paintings. Don't fuss too much or they will look "worked over" and stiff.

A good resource is the book "Techniques in Reverse Glass Painting" by Margaret Emery (go to for more information). Future blog entries will show some more techniques and projects.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Reverse Glass Paintings for Mirrors

These little mirrors (often referred to as country Sheraton, or “cottage” mirrors) usually have charming, na├»ve reverse glass paintings. Unfortunately, they are often in poor condition. Restoration of reverse glass painting is problematical at best, and conservation or restoration is usually not a cost effective solution for these. If the damage is very objectionable, I suggest making a replica and putting the original glass in storage. If there are just a few areas of objectionable flaking, a color matched piece can be placed as a backing panel to make the missing areas less noticeable, without touching the original.

I purchased these two in order to have the original glass (albeit with some paint losses and deterioration) from one of them as a pattern for my portfolio of glass designs. The other one was replaced, with a totally inappropriate rendition (apparently inspired by watching cartoons). Nice for a change to see that this is the one with the broken glass – usually it is the good panel that is shattered.

I keep a stock of old glass on hand, in order to replicate a deteriorated panel, or to create an appropriate painting if the original one is no longer there.
These are great fun to paint, and in these blog entries I will show the progress of this project.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Charleston, SC

Still in catch-up mode. Part two of the Christmas trip was a return visit to Charleston, SC. As with my other favorite cities, most of the appeal is simply wandering about looking at the architecture and soaking up atmosphere and history. While I still favor Savannah for its squares and slightly "grittier" atmosphere, I must say Charleston has a better selection of good restaurants.

There are a number of house museums (and if you manage to get their during the garden/house tour season in the spring, you can tour many private homes, as well). In addition to fine interiors, Charleston has my favorite house museum, the Aiken Rhett House, owned and managed by the Historic Charleston Foundation (

What makes this house special is that it remained a home, owned by only a few families since it was originally built. It was not significantly altered during the 20th century, and as rooms were no longer needed, they were closed off. It has been stabilized, but not restored, so you see remnants of its entire history. It is the closest thing to a haunted house (and even may be, if you believe in that sort of thing).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Savannah II

Whatever illness I picked up on this trip is still lingering, but almost gone.

Back to the trip:

While in Savannah we went back to most of our usual haunts: the Owen House, Davenport House, and probably my favorite, the Andrew Lowe house.

Even if you are not into the decorative arts, just wandering the streets and squares of Savannah is a treat. You can be very touristy and wander the river walk, where the buildings and cobblestone ramps were used to store and load the cotton being shipped out from Savannah. Now full of gift shops, restaurants and the like.

There are plenty of places to eat in Savannah. Since we arrived in a horrendous rain storm, we opted to eat in at the Hilton, and it was very good. One night we went, as is our habit, to the Old Pink House. Very old fashioned, traditional (so traditional they seem to be the only restaurant without a web site), in a historic building. Excellent food and service, and and the atmosphere can't be beat. For a change the next evening, we went for Thai food, followed by a visit to Lulu's Chocolate Bar.

Then off to Charleston.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Savannah, Georgia

I have a backlog of posts to make, so will start with our return visit to Savannah. This is our fifth visit, and if any place could make me move from New England, this would be it. Sure, it has hot weather much of the year, but the proliferation of shady squares makes it feel cool. We usually visit in the winter, and the vegetation still feel lush and green.

This time we stayed at the Hilton Desoto (apparently there is still bad feeling about this hotel since it replace a large Victorian hotel during a "renewal" phase), but the location was great, and although we didn't need to take advantage of it this trip, it is dog friendly! We arrived during a torrential rain, so it was nice to just pull into the garage underneath, and dine in at their Friday night low country seafood buffet.

The weather improved for the rest of our stay, so we did our usual visits to historic house museums, plus just wandering the streets and squares.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year

We have just returned from a holiday visit to the south, including Savannah, Charleston and St. Augustine. My souvenir from this trip is what is beginning to feel more and more like pneumonia. So, unfortunately, my first post of 2010 (and I promised myself to be more active about posting) will be brief, as I am going back to bed.